Drink less soda and more water. Or juice. Or low-fat milk.
That's the message from the Friday regional meeting of the Central California Regional Obesity Prevention Program.
The forum focused on rising obesity in children and adults, obesity research from community members and participants brainstormed about tactics to put obesity on both state and local radar.
One such tactic touted at the meeting could be a soda fee initiative.
In April, the California Center for Public Health Advocacy released findings of a poll on Californians' attitudes about taxing soda and other sugar-sweetened drinks as a way to fund obesity prevention programs.
The majority of Californians were receptive to taxing soda, according to the health advocacy website.
The advocacy group is a nonprofit that says it tries to raise awareness about critical public health issues.
The California Legislature is also zeroing in on obesity. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has until Thursday to sign or veto a childhood obesity prevention bill, sponsored by the CCPHA, which "sets important nutritional guidelines for the beverages served in child care facilities," according to the CCPHA website.
In 2005, 55 percent of children 2 through 11 drank one can or more a day of soda, while 33 percent of adults drank one can or more daily in Merced County in that year, according to a 2009 report, "Bubbling Over: Soda Consumption and its Link to Obesity in California."
The report came from the advocacy group and the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. In Merced in 2005, 62 percent of those 2 to 17 drank one or more sodas a day, according to the report.
The reason the numbers are from 2005 is because it's still a challenge to find local data that represent Merced County, according Claudia Corchado, program manager for the Central California Regional Obesity Prevention Program.
In 2007, an estimated 30 percent of adults in Merced County were considered obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Corchado said the group is trying to iron out details of a soda initiative fee.
Eventually, she said "the fees come back to promote after-school activities. It's going to come back to the community."
She said there are benefits from the initiative because then "kids don't have to go out to sell cookie dough. This message needs to be the benefits that this will help is youth activity."
"With the continuous funding stream, it is going to support physical education in the schools, it will support after school programs, (and) more physical activity," she said.
She said the campaign started last year and that it's still at the initiative stage.
"We are challenged with very high fat, low cost fast food. We are challenged with huge portions of super sized, king sized. We are challenged with the technology component piece where there are computers, Internet and computer games where kids become complacent," she said.
Other groups at the meeting like the CCPHA want to increase the consumption of healthy drinks, such as water, and decrease the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages to combat obesity, according to Stefan Harvey, assistant director of CCPHA.
Reporter Ameera Butt can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or firstname.lastname@example.org.